In the midst of Europe’s ongoing migrant crisis, Austria’s population grew by 115,000 last year to almost 8.7 million, according to official figures.
This represents a significant higher rate of growth than in 2014, when the population grew by around 77,000, with 75,000 of last year’s new arrivals coming from states outside the European Union.
‘Statistics Austria’ says the number of Syrians entering the country rose by 21,800, with Afghanis increasing by 18,300 and Iraqis by 10,000.
The news comes as separate figures reveal unemployment has risen to nearly half a million in the country whose total population is less than 9 million.
Austrian paper Der Standard reports that just over 490,000 people were registered unemployed last month, marking a 10 per cent increase on the same time last year, suggesting the massive influx of migrants is failing to boost the country’s economy.
One city that is particularly hard-hit is the capital Vienna, which coincidentally also experienced the highest population growth last year.
The city took in 43,200 people in 2015, taking its total population to 1.84 million. At the same time, 141,718 of its citizens are registered unemployed, including 58,000 non-Austrians. This represents a 17 per cent increase in the number of unemployed foreigners in the city over the past year.
Social Affairs Minister Alois Stöger tried to put a brave face on the figures by claiming the rise was smaller than in previous months, but admitted there is no sign yet of the labour market recovering.
In the mean time, the Austrian government has announced plans to deport some 50,000 failed asylum seekers over the next four years as it attempts to get tough following the failure of its open borders policy.
Deutsche Welle reports the country’s government will also seek to cap the number of new asylum seekers at 37,500 this year compared the 90,000 it accepted in 2015.
Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said: “We are already among the countries with the most expulsions, but we will step up the pace and will increase the upward trend.”
Give the huge influx over the past year, however, the figure of 50,000 will likely raise scepticism over whether the Austrian government can effectively deal with the ongoing migrant crisis.
Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said the new policy was “important, but even more important is to end our open door policy and not let so many refugees into the country in future”.
It is also not just unemployment that is causing concern. Yesterday, the trial began of 13 suspected jihadis who were detained last year after a series of raids in cities across Austria.
Der Standard says the trial, in city of Graz, is being held under such tight security that journalists have to apply for accreditation before being given access to the court room.
Among those accused is a radical Islamist preacher who is charged with various terror offences, including murder.
The trial comes as Austria deals with an increasing Islamist presence in its countries, with dozens of citizens as well as newly arrived migrants feared to have radical connections.